Book Review:  The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

I have always heard of this book over the years as it has been out for ten years!  As I finally read this book ten years after the book was published, I realize how much of a pioneer journalist or rather investigator Michael Pollan really was back in 2006- or before as he did his research.  If you want to learn more about really where your food comes from- the source- then read this book.  The author just didn’t research online articles about where the food we eat comes from- even at fast food restaurants as McDonalds or “healthy” grocery store chains as Whole Foods… he went to the source and participating in his research to write this book and others.  Years ago, I read Michael Pollan’s other handbook to eating called “Food Rules” and now I can understand where he came up with these “rules”.  As I have said before… we just need to eat real whole foods or as some people say “JERF” (just eat real food). 

The more books I read on our food revolution over the last six decades or more, the more I realize we need to pay more attention to not only what food we put into our mouths but also how much we are eating, the source of our food, and how we are eating.  Our country had become addicted to busyness:  we are constantly over-scheduled, over-stimulated and over-connected human doers …instead of human beings.   These lifestyle habits show up in what the food manufacturers are creating as well as the marketing campaigns… people are busy and they want affordable food quickly.

Michael Pollan started to see our relationship to food as an epidemic over ten years ago.  He was/is a journalist but found his purpose in life to explore the different meals in our society and experience our food industry first hand!  Literally- Michael Pollan went to the corn fields and to the farmers, to McDonalds, to the grocery store and more to get to the source of our meal.  The first part of the book is about corn and soy farmers which leaves you shocked how much corn is in every processed food as well as the serving containers!  No wonder we eliminate corn and soy in our food elimination challenges- it is everywhere in our prepared foods.

Pollan takes a trip with his family to McDonalds where you really get an idea of the breakdown of corn products in fast foods.  Is corn and soy food after the industrialization and chemical processing?  Genetically modified foods (GMO) is an area we need to all become more educated and aware of-  as well as avoid daily!  GMO food products, in my opinion, are no longer real food and our bodies are designed to only digest real foods so what are we doing to our digestion system then the cascade of events after we eat non-foods?  One can only imagine- or just look around on your next trip to the airport or busy tourist location as Disney World.

A typical meal at McDonald’s includes a frightening amount of corn- even if the food isn’t actually called corn on the menu!  Pollan discovered that the meal his family ate at McDonalds’ really came from a cornfield in Iowa. Check this out-the corn feeds the steer- turns into the burgers -then becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas!  Out of the 38 ingredients in a chicken McNugget – 13 of the ingredients are derived from corn!  Sick.  McDonald’s should change the names on the menu to CORN Shakes, CORN based Soda, CORN based Chicken Nuggets.

 

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a first-hand investigation/research story about “natural history of four meals” –and learning where the meal on his plate (or wrapper) evolved from starting with the soil to the finished product.

  • Fast food Meal at McDonalds- and eaten at a fast pace in a car!
  • An advertised “healthy” meal at Whole Foods grocery store
  • A meal created from a sustainable organic farm.
  • A traditional ancestral meal -hunt and gather your own food!

Where did our relationship with food go downhill?  It could be the beginning of the feedlot food, processing food plants, the food pyramid or the addiction to busyness leading to the increased demand of packaged pre-made food that is quick and easy!  We often don’t take time to slow down, sit down and enjoy eating a meal made of real food as they do in Italy or France!  In our society, taking a break to go home for a family meal mid-day in unheard of as well as eating breakfast made from real food instead of out of a cardboard box or in the microwave!  Today, we do have more options for “grass-fed”, “Paleo”, “organic” and “natural” – but what does that really mean?  Where does that package food come from that is labeled “Paleo”?  As Pollan writes in his other companion handbook called “Food Rules”- be able to understand the ingredients on the food label as well as make sure your food has five ingredients or less.

What is real food?  Even Whole Foods that is marketed to be local and fresh is filled with packaged processed foods in the aisles that are microwavable and organic but filled with sugar and other filler ingredients.  The billion-dollar food industry doesn’t make much money from our society buying vegetables and meat direct from a local farmer’s market or meat from a local farm.   Go look at the eggs for sale at the grocery store- how do we know which ones to buy?  Free-range, organic, grass-fed, omega-3 added eggs?  It is overwhelming to shop even if you are education on what is real-food versus non-food.  Where does your food come from that is on your plate?  Is it from the natural world?

How many food products in our grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains have their food derived from corn, soy, and bad vegetable oils?   Pollan mentions of the 45,000 plus items in the grocery stores- over a ¼ of the food contains CORN!  What about soy?  Do we even know the history of corn and that the corn we grow in our back yard is not the same version of corn in a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget?  If farmers are only able to survive if they have factory farm animals and GMO crops- how is the health of our future generations going to end up as?

I don’t want to go hunting for my own food but I do want to make sure the source of what I am eating is coming from a trusted origin and limited processing.  Perhaps we need to focus on eating by the season and eating locally grown food – organic when possible and make more time to prepare our food …and even more time to enjoy the experience of eating food! 

As I wrote a book about it: “Life is not a race… enjoy the journey” (on Amazon!).  That includes what, where and how we are eating our food to provide our body with the nutrients we need to survive!